Finding a Way to Grow: An Interview With Idea Factory International

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

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Megadimension Neptunia VII | Monster

At the end of March, oprainfall was invited to visit the Idea Factory International HQ in Los Angeles, CA. We had the opportunity to sit down with the marketing team, David Alonzo and Ari Advincula, to talk about the future of Idea Factory International and how they plan to introduce JRPGs to a wider crowd. The Neptunia series provides Idea Factory International with enough games to work on and probably succeed as a small localization business, but no one in the office wants to stop there. They are all so determined in bringing as many titles and genres as they can to the West. It was exciting to meet them and witness just how powerful the young company is.

idea factory international

Idea Factory International has localized plenty of new IPs including Fairy Fencer F and Trillion. How does the studio determine what games to bring to the West aside from the popular Neptunia series?

David – There’s so many different factors to that, but it’s kinda like “yea sure, we can bank on Neptunia” because that’s a franchise. Since we are company that’s just starting out we want to expand and branch out to bring over all these other Japanese games. We’ve been experimenting, like we brought over Amnesia: Memories which is an otome game and we’re bringing over Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force. We just want to test the waters with everything that we bring over.

Ari – We’re still pretty new; we’ve only been around for 3 years. So right now we are just trying different genres outside of the Neptunia franchise to see what works so that we can move on from there.

David – Having Idea Factory in Japan really helps. They are always making games so we have a lot to choose from so that’s kinda what we’re doing right now.

Does fan demand factor into what games you choose to localize and how does Idea Factory International check and see if Western fans are interested in the new IP your team has been localizing?

David – I like to check forums, like Gamefaqs, but we also want to see how well it did in Japan and see if that will translate in the US. I know, there is a difference between the Japanese market and the US market, but the people in the US that are interested in these niche titles fall a little more in line to how the Japanese consumers react to games. There have been times when we went on and check user reviews. So we do look at fan discussions a lot and in both markets.

Is there a particular time when a game is development that Idea Factory International wants to pick it up or do you usually wait for the release?

David – I think we are aware of what they have in development. They’ll come by and visit and tell us what they have, but I’m not sure when the deals get made. Jack Niida, our producer, has a direct line to Japan and he goes there a lot.

Ari – Yes he’s doing most of the discussions and talking, but in terms of when we actually see the project, it’s more towards the end. So the title has been decided, there’s character art already made and a game doc ready. So, no way is it decided in the middle of development stages.

idea factory international

There’s a few different localizing companies bring games to the West. How does Idea Factory International plan to grow and reach more players?

David – I think we’re starting to kinda do that right now with Trillion: God of Destruction. We are starting to branch out from the turn based fighting style.

Ari – In Japan there’s [the game studio] Makai Ichiban Kan who made Trillion: God of Destruction and they are going to be making two more games to complete that trilogy.

David – That means that new games are going to be coming outside of the Neptunia genre and we’re definitely keeping an eye on that.

What is it about Neptunia that makes her so appealing to fans?

David – I think it’s just [that] the characters themselves are immersed in the gaming world and that’s something people can easily identify with.

Ari – I think gamers really relate to Neptunia because it’s just like how gamers talk. So when they are playing they get a solid representation of those conversations.

David – Yes, and each form represents a different form of otaku gamer.

We started a conversation about Neptunia character designer, Tsunako. She has worked on games like Cross Edge and Fairy Fencer F as well as worked as an illustrator for the the Date-a-Live series. Tsunako had a exhibit displayed at a museum in Japan which showed off all her work in the industry, including Neptunia. 

I know you probably can’t talk about this but how did Neptunia VII sell in the West?

David – It was received really well.

Ari – I think it had to do with the PlayStation 4 being the first console for some players, so this is first time they are being exposed to a JRPG. It was most interesting to hear from those people saying, “I’ve never seen Neptunia before. I’ve never even seen this kind of game and I love it!”

David – I think Neptunia has gone under the radar this past console generation for most players.

Ari – Yea because some people don’t have a Vita for some reason.

Some video game sites, I feel, like to make spectacles of niche gamers. When writing about a niche game they focus on one part-which is usually a fan service scene-rather than the story. How do you market a niche game to kinda show the casual gamer “no, there is more than that”?

Ari – For example with Trillion: God of Destruction, we started doing a video series that showed step-by-step gameplay and we also attended PlayStation Experience last year. So what makes Trillion niche, aside from the artwork, is the genre. So when we were at PlayStation Experience [we were] able to put ourselves, as a niche company, in a venue amongst all these more casual gamers and show them, “No, this is what niche gaming is like, you can understand this”.

David – Being able to stand with them and guide them through how the game is played allowed them to be able to get a better sense of it. On Steam we’ve gotten a lot of emails saying, “I’ve never played a Neptunia game before and now I’m super hooked.”

Ari – Yea, now when we announce a Neptunia game we get “Don’t leave the Steam fans hanging”.

Did you feel like you saw an increase in fans when a more action oriented game like Neptunia U released on Steam?

David – I think it did. A lot of people saw the gameplay and saw that it was more like Dynasty Warriors.

Ari – I think for some people that don’t have a lot of patience for turn based RPGs they saw this as a Neptunia game that they could actually finish versus having to grind through difficult areas.

What was the most difficult part about working on Trillion?

Ari – There was so much dialogue.

David – Being able to translate and edit all that within the time constraints that we had was a miracle. We almost always have one translator and one editor working on the whole thing.

Ari – I’m sure they were thinking, “This is beyond any Neptunia dialogue that we’ve ever faced”

David – The game directors told us they were really excited about creating the game so they kept putting in more and more story dialogue.

Ari – Yea they came to us and said, “So sorry about that”.

David – I’m surprised it even fit on the Vita cartridge due to the amount of text.

Ari – I would contend that Neptunia is harder to translate and localize due to all the puns. There’s so much research that goes into some of the references like, “Wait, this might be a reference to an old anime that only had one episode.”

We began talking about how Neptunia games in Japan contain a lot of fish puns due to references to Japanese characters. 

idea factory international

So who is your favorite Overlord in Trillion?

Ari – Levia, she’s very protective of you and doesn’t want any of the other overlords talking to you. She’s the Yandere type.

David – I like Ashmedia, she’s the overlord of lust-

Ari – The sexual one. [smirks]

David – Yes, but as you play through the game you see more sides of her. She has a sorta motherly feel to her, yes she’s really sexual, but she seems to understand what other characters are thinking and comments on it. I like that she’s a little more nuanced than initially what you think she is.

With Trillion and Neptunia VII it seems we are starting to see a darker side of games. It’s as if Neptunia is growing with fans; are we going to see an increase of the more serious types of games?

David – Well I think VII is a good example of how you can still maintain that quirky humor and still get a little darker with the story. I feel like the dark ending in Re;Birth 2 was them kinda dabbling with a darker story, but with VII you got see how things developed. Even though the story is really dark you can have these bright spots in it. Same with Trillion, even though the world is ending they have these silly dialogue bits.

Is there a game that you would like to see localized that hasn’t yet?

Ari – For me, it’s more otome games. I follow the Otomate Twitter and they are always posting new games and every single one of them looks great. For me, right now, it would be Bad Apple Wars.

David – It would be great to localize more otome, but there is a lot text and we’re still a super small company. Whenever there’s a game coming out it’s not like we are working on that one game. Our team is working on two or three titles at a time. They not only do the editing and translation, but they have to do the debug and 3rd party submissions. So they’ve always got a lot on their plate, so just-

Ari – Just because Ari wants it…[Laughs]

David – Maybe once we get bigger we can start expanding to doing more otome games.

So what games are you guys playing outside of Idea Factory games?

Ari – I’m actually replaying Final Fantasy VII on Steam and Final Fantasy: Crisis Core on PSP.

David – I started playing Persona 4: Golden and then a huge spoiler was revealed to me.

Hope you enjoyed the interview, are you excited for what Idea Factory International has planned for the future? Be sure to comment below with any questions or concerns you might have. Also don’t for get to check out our interview with Idea Factory International’s translation team.